My Tattoos & Piercings


I have 2 tattoos. And they were done in one sitting by a tattoo artist, named Alex Gregory at Evolution tattoo in Bloomington, Minnesota. You can peek at her work, here. I found her through one of my coworkers who got her tattoos done by the tattoo artist who also worked at Evolution Tattoo. However, I fell more in love with Alex’s work since she seemed to do a lot more geometric and line work.

Initially, I wanted to get mine done by Jon Boy, a really Instagram-popular tattoo artist based in New York who happened to be in Minnesota at the time. I emailed him, and his assistant got back to me with a minimum hourly rate of $300 with no openings. He is known for minimal delicate and super thin tattoo work. After years of hesitation mainly was because I did not know what I wanted and which tattoo artist to go for, I finally made up my mind and went in for a consultation. I came in for a quick consultation with Alex and told her I wanted two tattoos done at once, one ‘phrase/word’ tattoo and one line work with either a sun, a sunflower, or a horse. I love sunflowers. They are bright, yellow, big, and powerful looking. They resemble the sun hence my other option was also the sun. I love the sun, love to feel it on my skin, its warmth, and its many symbolism and is the ultimate inspiration for humankind. I was born in the year of the horse, and it has always been my favorite animal. Horses are majestic and beautiful! Alex quickly took some notes and took the printed photos I brought along as inspiration and told me to go on to pick out a font for my word tattoo. She said she would email me the sketch of the other geometric/line tattoo a week before my actual appointment date. She ended up going for the sunflower tattoo idea since she wanted to make things easier on my very first tattoo appointment. Her initial sketch of the sunflower was very symmetrical and flat looking, so I ended up sending her more of other tattoo ideas I found on Pinterest and told her to make it look more 3D with more depth. I printed out her first sketch and immediately knew I wanted it right at the ankle, my left inner ankle area to be specific. It was weird that I knew the placement for sure right at that point. I even drew it out on my ankle with a pen and sent Alex how I wanted it to look.

The phrase tattoo, inspired by Jon Boy’s cursive and delicate word/phrase work (mentioned above), ended up being super easy to settle for in terms of the font.

Below are the 3 fonts I was debating between, and obviously I ended up going for the second font, here.

ne te quasiveris extra

Ne te quasiveris extra means ‘do not seek for things outside of yourself,’ from Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance and Other Essays. It is written in Latin, and I don’t speak nor read Latin. You can obviously interpret it however you want, but to me it just simply means ‘look within.’ It is often my answer to anyone who has seen my tattoo and asked for its meaning. I was on a self-discovering trip with a friend exploring New York and its many museums in the spring of 2015. I just happened to see this exact phrase in a painting at The Frick Collection, took notes in my phone, and went to to research more about it. I found some snippets of the quote/phrase and some people have discussed about it, but I honestly did not come to any conclusions in terms of the exact meaning as well as found any tattoo photos of the exact phrase existed at the time. I somehow just knew I wanted it as a tattoo. Its meaning is simple and fits my philosophy of living. I often make life choices based on my feelings rather than asking for someone else’s. I would seek for help and advice, but I make the decision. It is also a reminder to stay humbled and grounded, to look within me and to let go of other external things such as: physical and material things, insecurities, expectations, and attachments and what others have to say about me. It feels ‘self-liberating.’ The way I found out about this place would always be very special to me. It was when I walked the streets of New York, breathed in the air of New York, saw things, did things, and said to myself, ‘I needed to live here one day!’ Until now, it has not changed. And the tattoo which I chose to have in my inner left arm is the daily reminder of all of that!

If you look to others for fulfillment, you will never truly be fulfilled. If your happiness depends on money, you will never be happy with yourself. Be content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you. – Lao Tzu

Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes. – Carl Jung

Look within. You are the world. – Jiddu Krishnamurti

Pain levels and healing: The word tattoo took Alex less than 10 minutes to re-position and do. She printed out the tattoo in a special type of paper, used some wet towel, and transfer the ink from the paper on to my arm. She went for the finest needle she had which was not as fine compared to Jon Boy’s, but I thought it was good enough. She also said that overtime it would bleed out a bit, so the photos you saw above were my current takes of the tattoo after almost 2 years. The arm tattoo was like a 2/10 to me. It felt more like someone who took a tiny tipped pen and ran it across my arm. The ankle tattoo, however, was a 4/10. The part when she drew a complete circle without stopping and the dot work hurt the most. But it was not that uncomfortable at all. She wrapped my tattoos in plastic wraps and told me to by this ointment to apply twice a day. It felt stingy a little bit a few days after, scalped and peeled a little bit after two weeks or so. I paid $150 and tipped Alex $40. It was an overall pleasant experience even though Alex did not seem too thrilled doing such simple tattoos. She said she loved doing trees and animals, big and colorful, but well!

Lots of people also questions the placements of them, and I just said I liked how you cannot see them when looking at me right from the front or back and you won’t see them unless I want to show them to you. Eventually, I want to get a big tattoo in my inner arm, but for now I am unsure about the what and the when. I enjoyed the process from just having an idea to going back and forth with the designs to the actual experience of getting inked up and that will stay in the body forever. I often forget about the fact that I have tattoos, but it always makes me smile whenever I see them. They are nothing but emotional attachments to certain period of life. Tattoos will bleed and look worst as you age, they say. But I don’t mind that. They will age as you age.


I got the two earlobes done right after I was born. I was pretty sure that was a thing back then that it was a default if you were born a girl. Well, at least that was the case in Vietnam where I was born. I got the upper left earlobe by a friend with a sewing needle and some threads submerged prior in a type of ointment. That did not hurt nor scared me as much as many people thought. The two left cartilage piercings were done about couple of years ago at a piercing shop/booth located in the Rosedale mall in Minnesota. I got them punched in using a gun and that took forever to heel. At least with earrings, they ended up being only $50.

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here you can see my two earlobe piercings and two cartilage helix piercings

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Pain levels and healing: I obviously could not recall the pain levels on three of my earlobe piercings. The cartilages, however, hurt for a few seconds when they were being done but took so long to heal. I went for smaller piercing earrings, so my holes were really small that caused so much trouble every time I changed up the earrings. They took more than a year to heal with constant bleeding and being infected. There would be blobs of blood formed in the back of both piercings, and I had to change out the earrings often to make sure they would not infect me further. The cool thin and small cartilage earrings you see in the upper left photo also caused some bleeding in the process of me trying to put them through the two tiny holes. I heard you won’t get infected to bleed as bad if you have them done at a professional tattoo and piercing person. But well, that would have costed a few hundred dollars with the jewelry. My friends who also go their cartilage piercings done at the same time gave up since they got so infected after a while. I survived. So I think it is really up to your preference.

I eventually will get more tattoos (as said before) and more cool piercings such as a conch, a daith, a rook, or a tragus, but the when and where is unsure as of right now. It was funny when my mom in Vietnam found out about my tattoos and was mad at me for having them done. Lots of people still think tattoos are associated with gang signs and that makes it difficult to seek for a job, blah blah. Apparently, I can convince no one to change their mind, perception, and the way they think about other people. I get tattoos and piercings done just because I like them. How about you? Do you have any tattoos or piercings? Tell me in the comment section below.

Thanks for reading and have a wonderful day! Also, stay tuned for my Arizona/Utah/Nevada blog posts coming up next very soon!

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An Trieu

Currently based in Seattle, Style & Senses is my digital life and style journal of all things that inspire my senses and beyond. Hope you stay inspired, as always! - An Trieu.

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